A few weekends ago I stayed with Jem’s family in East London. We had a good walk around Hainault Forest on the Saturday (despite getting caught in a downpour) and saw the RAF aircraft for the Queen’s birthday fly-by come over. On the Saturday, Jem and I decided to check out Wanstead Park (after it took us an hour just to find a way in). Not a huge amount to report bird-wise, apart from a couple of Woodpeckers in Hainault and a recently-fledged Jay in Jem’s back garden (now named “Fluffles”), but the weather had been mostly cool and damp anyway.
The following weekend was also pretty poor weather-wise, but we did at least get a walk around Bushy Park on the Sunday afternoon. We some newly-fledged Blue Tits, a Wren, and a Green Woodpecker in the long grass, but not a lot else. Some photogenic Red Deer were hanging around near one of the gates with their antlers covered in felt, so that helped make a few nice photos.
We’d taken the Monday off work to go to Wimbledon, and we were lucky enough to get a pair of tickets for Court Three via the limited sale on Ticketmaster’s website. We saw Elena Baltacha’s defeat, then saw a bit of Eugenie Bouchard’s win on a court nearby. After lunch on Henman Hill/Murray Mount (where we watched Carol Kirkwood doing the weather report from the nearby terrace), we then watched some of Vasek Pospisil’s victory over Marc Gicquel before returning to our seats to see the end of Janko Tipsarevic’s defeat by Viktor Troicki and then Caroline Caroline Wozniacki’s easy win. We then saw the end of Jamie Ward’s defeat on Court Twelve before managing to sneak onto both Centre Court and Court One to see the very last games of, respectively, Anne Keothavong’s defeat and Lleyton Hewitt’s win. The All England Club is within walking distance of the flat, so we finished with a nice evening walk home.
The best bit of recent birding was on this most recent Saturday afternoon. Jem and I only made it over to Rainham Marshes late-on, arriving just in time to get some lunch before the cafe shut at 2pm, but the following walk in the blazing sun proved much more fruitful than I’d anticipated – mainly because of the heat and the general quietness overall. Straight away we got Common Whitethroats, Reed Warblers, young Dunnocks and a singing Chiffchaff, and then a nice Kestrel, first hovering near the power lines and later perched on a structure over the high-speed rail line. The reedbeds and pools played host to Marsh Frogs, Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, a male Reed Bunting, various damselflies and dragonflies (including a nicely backlit Four-spotted Chaser) and then we got good views of a hunting Hobby. We didn’t realise how late it was getting until we reached the Shooting Butts Hide and found it locked, so we increased our speed as we continued the loop anti-clockwise towards the Thames and back to the Visitor Centre. As we worked our way around we heard a calling Cuckoo, and then we were treated to great – if a little distant – views of it flying up and down a fence across the main part of the marsh, perching occasionally. Annoyingly the heat haze meant my photos were record shots at best. On the way back I also got a brief glimpse of one of the resident Kingfishers perched on a bridge. If I’d had my wits about me I might have been able to have got a perfectly-lit portrait in the evening sun, but it wasn’t to be. There was also a Skylark having a dustbath on the pathway. On returning to the Visitor Centre we found it had already shut, meaning we had to leave the site by the turnstiles – the first time I’d missed closing time in the five years I’ve been visiting Rainham!